PM's Much-Touted Seaplane Service in Gujarat Fails to Take Off

The Airports Authority of India has said that Information about the service, sought under an RTI query, would "affect commercial confidence".

New Delhi: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has said that revealing information about the seaplane service between Ahmedabad and Kevadia and the expenses incurred in launching the project would “directly affect strategy and economic interest of the state” as well as “commercial confidence” in the state.

According to a report in the Deccan Herald, the AII has, in response to an RTI query, denied sharing information related to total expenses that the government incurred in launching the project.

“The project is still under development. The total expense can only be provided on completion. The capital expenditure for this project is being borne by Govt of India under the UDAN scheme,” the RTI reply said.

The body also refused to share the feasibility test report and said that the test was conducted but “the development of these Water Aerodrom is still underway. Any information regarding this, shared at this stage would directly affect strategy/and economic interest of the state.”

It also said that the information sought under the RTI would “affect commercial confidence” and “may harm the state interest, thereby larger public interest”.

Also read: Gujarat: No Environment Nod, Work Starts on Seaplane Service Between Sabarmati, Statue of Unity

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the country’s first seaplane service between the Statue of Unity near Kevadia and Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad on October 31, 2020. Modi had previously undertaken a similar journey from Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad to Dharoi dam in Mehsana while campaigning during state elections in 2017.

Since the launch, the service has reportedly remained grounded for most of the days and it flew for only about 25 days. During the launch, it was hailed as the country’s first-ever seaplane service.

The project, which was launched along with private airline SpiceJet, has also been criticised for its irregular service. “If you look at closely, most of such projects including Ro-Ro service between Bhavnagar and Surat failed. I think the state government should focus on basic amenties such as drinking water, education and health which are the need of the hour for a state battling with coronavirus cases,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.

SpiceJet’s spokesperson told Deccan Herald that, “bookings for SpiceShuttle’s seaplane service between Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Riverfront and Kevadia’s Statue of Unity are now open. The service will resume from December 30, 2020.”

When asked about the gap of nearly a month, when the service was not available, the airline said, that “Seaplane operation had been temporarily suspended due to mandatory aircraft maintenance. Since the maintenance facility (dry and wet dock) was under construction at Ahmedabad, the aircraft had to be sent to our lessor’s facility at Maldives. The maintenance facility at Ahmedabad should be ready soon which would ensure that future maintenance is done here itself.”

A report by the Times of India said that the service had actually operated for a maximum of 24 days, from the Sabarmati riverfront to Kevadia and vice versa.

“Consistency and a good service experience is what any paying traveller expects. The seaplane service was to have a glamour factor to attract tourists to Gujarat. If the service does not operate consistently, people will not trust it and it will not serve the purpose of boosting tourism,” said Manish Sharma, secretary, Travel Agents’ Federation of India (TAFI), Gujarat told TOI.